Corrupt Exchanges: Actors, Resources, and Mechanisms of Political Corruption

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Political corruption has traditionally been presented as a phenomenon characteristic of developing countries, authoritarian regimes, or societies in which the value system favored tacit patrimony and clientelism. Recently, however, the thesis of an inverse correlation between corruption and economic and political development (and therefore democratic "maturity") has been frequently and convincingly challenged. Countries with a long democratic tradition, such as the United States, Belgium, Britain, and Italy, have all experienced a combination of headline-grabbing scandals and smaller-scale cases of misappropriation.

In Corrupt Exchanges, primary research on Italian cases (judicial proceedings, in-depth interviews, parliamentary documents, and press databases), combined with a cross-national comparison based on a secondary analysis of corruption in democratic systems, is used to develop a model to analyze corruption as a network of illegal exchanges. The authors explore in great detail the structure of that network, by examining both the characteristics of the actors who directly engage in the corruption and the resources they exchange. These processes of degeneration have caused a crisis in the dominant paradigm in both academic and political considerations of corruption.

The book is organized around the analysis of the resources that are exchanged and of the different actors who take part. Politicians in business, illegal brokers, Mafia members, protected entrepreneurs, and party-appointed bureaucrats exchange resources on the illegal market, altering the institutional system of interactions between the state and the market. In this complex web of exchanges, bonds of trust are established that allow the corrupt exchange to thrive. The book will serve both as a theoretical approach to a political problem of large bearing on democratic institutions and a descriptive warning of a system in peril.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“In this substantial volume, translated from the original Italian for the benefit of international researchers, political scientists della Porta of the University of Florence and Vannucci of the University of Pisa provide a scholarly survey of the problem of political corruption under modern conditions… della Porta and Vannucci show with new and theoretically greater sophistication how, in late-20th-century Italy, a system of self-reinforcing values and behavior opposed to the state and the public interest may emerge from inefficiencies engendered by the social and economic transformation of political parties and the political classes that they serve… Graduate students, researchers, and faculty.” —T. Fackler, Choice
Primary research on Italian cases of political corruption, combined with cross-national comparison based on a secondary analysis of corruption in democratic systems, is used to develop a model to analyze corruption as a network of illegal exchanges. Material is organized around analysis of the resources that are exchanged and of the different actors who take part, with a focus on the complex web of exchanges between politicians in business, illegal brokers, Mafia members, and party-appointed bureaucrats. Della Porta is associate professor of local government at the University of Florence. Vannucci is a postdoctoral fellow in political science at the University of Pisa. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780202306001
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/31/1999
  • Series: Social Problems and Social Issues Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 330
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Alberto Vannucci is a postdoctoral fellow, Department of Political Science, University of Pisa.

Donatella della Porta is professor of political science at the University of Florence. Her publications in English include Social Movements and Violence and Social Movements: An Introduction.

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Table of Contents

1 The Market for Corrupt Exchange: An Introduction 1
2 The Resources of Corruption 33
3 The Business Politicians 69
4 Political Parties and Corruption 93
5 Political Corruption, Bureaucratic Corruption, and the Judiciary 129
6 Brokers and Occult Power 153
7 The Market for Corruption and the Economic System 177
8 Politics, the Mafia, and the Corruption Market 217
9 The Dynamics of Political Corruption: A Conclusion 245
List of Archival Documents from Court Records and Government Investigations (in Order of Investigation) 277
References 283
Author Index 303
Subject Index 309
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